By Kylie Nicholson
JAN 23, 2023
Inflammation is a key tool in our immune system’s toolkit, helping our bodies to heal, prevent infection, and fight foreign invaders. Our skin, being the first defense against our external world, works closely with the immune system to alert it to potential threats and take action against foreign invaders such as microbes or even cancerous cells.
Inflammation is the immune system’s response to external threats and kicks off the healing process. In skin, inflammation can have many feelings and appearances, such as skin rash, redness, or warmth in response to external and internal conditions, such as infection, allergens, or abrasions.1
What does skin inflammation mean?
When an immune response is initiated, the body produces inflammatory cells and cytokines (substances that stimulate the inflammatory response) to remedy the issue that initiated the immune response. These cells then work toward restoring the health of the skin by trapping bacteria and pathogens, or by rebuilding the tissue structure. This can result in visible signs of inflammation, such as bruising, swelling, and redness.3
What types of skin inflammation are there?
What are common causes of skin inflammation?
Allergens that cause inflammation often cause reactions in the skin such as eczema (atopic dermatitis) or hives. These skin conditions can be caused by plants, latex, or personal care products such as soaps, laundry detergents, or makeup.5
Photosensitivity is another immune response to sun exposure, which can cause inflammation in the skin. This occurs when the body responds to the sun as if it is a foreign invader, and can be induced by some medicines, skin products, or immune conditions. This is separate from sun damage, or sunburn.5
What does skin inflammation look like?
What does skin inflammation feel like?
What are 3 symptoms of inflammation?
- Redness: Extra redness in inflamed skin is caused by an influx of red blood cells to the area. These extra blood cells will fight infection and encourage healing.8
- Rash: A skin rash can often be caused by skin inflammation. These rashes can be smooth, scaly, or bumpy, and can be flat or raised off the skin.1
- Pain: Inflammatory chemicals can stimulate nerve endings, which can lead to an inflamed area feeling painful. These areas can feel sensitive to touch.9
What foods cause skin inflammation?
- Fried foods: Fried foods often contain high levels of compounds such as advanced glycation end products, which over time can cause acute inflammation and lead to chronic disease.10
- Sugar and high fructose corn syrup:High fructose corn syrup has been shown to increase several inflammatory markers in both mice and human studies. Sugar can also be harmful because it contains excess amounts of fructose.10
- Alcohol: Consumption of more than two alcoholic beverages in a day may lead to large increases in inflammation markers. Therefore, limiting alcoholic beverage consumption can help lower symptoms associated with acute skin inflammation10
- Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pastries, and foods with high sugar contents.3 These carbs have had their healthy fibers stripped away during processing, and therefore have a higher glycemic index than unprocessed carbs. These refined carbohydrates raise blood sugar quickly and can increase inflammation markers.10
How do you treat skin inflammation?
- Inflammation can manifest on skin in many ways, including in rashes, skin redness, dryness, and soreness of skin.
- Many different conditions such as allergies, stress, sun exposure, and poor diet can lead to inflammation throughout the body and skin.
- Inflammation can feel itchy, dry, and painful.
- Several lifestyle changes such as reducing fructose and alcohol intake, and managing stress can lower inflammation and its symptoms.
By Kylie Nicholson: Kylie is studying Biosystems engineering at the University of California, San Diego. She is passionate about scientific writing and women's health research.